I’ve had bloggers block this past week or so. Let me tell you why. Early last week I decided to write my first ever short story and enter it in a competition. I thought I would be rather clever and be able to write fiction and blog at the same time … I was wrong! I also thought, because I can sit here at my blog and comfortably belt out 500 plus words in ten minutes that I’d be ace at writing fiction. I was also wrong!
I haven’t written fiction since school, it has almost always been journal writing, plus the odd poem. By odd I mean really odd. Trippy, sort of. But that’s another blog for another day.
So, last week I decided to write a story, a short story. I sat at my computer with no plan and no idea where to start. That’s usually ok, because when I blog I generally start out that way and the words just come tumbling out. One thing I have learned this week is that I finally get that whole blank page, writers block thing. It never used to make sense to me. It now does and I apologise to the literary world for my ignorance. I closed down my word document and decided that I really need to think about my storyline. Words don’t just jump out of your head and onto a page and turn into fiction. Who would of thought that?
Throughout my life, even back at school, I have been told I should write. Now that I’m blogging I am told more often I should write. I should write a novel they say. I should do something with my writing. I want to. I would love nothing more than to have a paid writing job. Actually yes, there is one thing I would love more, and that is to write a novel. It wasn’t until last week that I began to ask myself the question “can I really write the novel that is supposedly lurking inside me?”.
Writing the short story scared me a little (ok a lot). I wrote a draft and thought it was reasonable. I reread it and thought hmmm, maybe not. I reworked it and reworked it. I sent it to a couple of people I respect immensely and felt ill. I also sent it to my best friend in Germany who read it and emailed me back saying
“Hi, hope this works, please just take this as purely as suggestions or how it would read better from a reader point of view, i love it especially when i re-read it and took more time. When does it have to be submitted?”
This was encouraging. I know she won’t beat around the bush with her feedback. I can rely on her to very clearly tell me if I am wasting my time. I’m glad she didn’t. I then had renewed enthusiasm to edit again and again and have since sent it off for more critiquing.
Yesterday, out of the blue, the very lovely Fleur McDonald, author of two successful novels Red Dust & Blue Skies (you can follow Fleur on Twitter @fleurmcdonald or visit her at her blog http://fleurmcdonald.com/), emailed and called me to say I had won a competition I had entered on her blog. The prize is a “Taster” pack from the Queensland Writers Centre. This consists of a 3 month membership. Perfect timing. I cannot tell you how excited I am and I can’t wait to join. Some force is definitely pushing me in the right direction.
Anyway, back to the Short Story Competition. I am so glad that I made the decision to enter because it has given me a realistic expectation of how hard it is to write a work of fiction. These are the three main things I’ve learnt in the space of a week:
- Writing is a craft. An artform. You don’t just drop words on a page and your story is written. Writing is like a sculpture, you start off with a rudimentary block of words and then you keep crafting them and crafting them until they sing off the page. You sculpt away unnecessary words and turn ordinary words into beautiful prose.
- Writing requires infinite patience. You have to be prepared to revisit and rewrite and edit and re edit. It is true when they say your first draft is simply that … a draft. No one ever writes a first draft they are happy to have published. Embarrassingly I thought that was rubbish – I’m sure my first draft will be great. I feel rather silly at my arrogance.
- Writing a book is like having a baby and putting it up for adoption. While you are creating it, you become the book you write. You become the characters. You live them. You breathe them, but ultimately you don’t own them. You have to hand them over to someone else who will be responsible to turn your manuscript into a real book. Then your book belongs to your readers. Writing is a big lesson in letting go.
I still have so much to learn, but those 3 things were really key for me this week. Yes, it is definitely going to be much harder than I first thought and that’s ok. I am a big believer in the saying “if something is too easy to come by, it’s probably not worth having in the first place”.
The following people, in their own way, have without a doubt, inspired me to finally write: Kylie Ladd, Kate Hunter, Anjanette Morton, Lisa Reynolds, Lisa Heidke, Jayne Kearney, Sarah Pietrzak, Fleur McDonald, Allison Tait, Catherine Overington, Nick Earls & Rebecca Sparrow Thank you. You may not know it, but because you are all so caring and generous with your time and encouraging words, you inspire people like me to follow their dreams.